How to save on living expenses in Japan【4min Read】

As a resident, especially a student in Japan, money can be quite an issue. Although Japan is relatively not such an expensive country, there are many ways in which you can cut back your living costs. Below are some ideas.

Yaoya 八百屋

Supermarkets in Japan may seem cheap compared to some other countries, but you can get an even better bargain at a Yaoya, which is a local small shop for vegetables. Vegetables at Yaoya are usually a lot cheaper than supermarket prices, and they usually have meats and condiments at a relatively cheap price also. The one I go to is near the train station so it’s quite convenient, and you can usually buy in bulk there. I’ve had days when avocadoes were only 50 yen, or the head of lettuce was 100 yen. Yaoya is a good place to stock up on vegetables.

Nomihoudai 飲み放題 all you can drink 

Alcohol can be quite expensive when drinking at a bar or pub. Usually, each drink bought on its own would be about 800 yen, but with the all-you-can-drink options in izakaya bars, the option itself can be as cheap as 800 yen, and you can drink many different things. At an izakaya, you can also eat Japanese style meals and snacks as well. This is a good way to cut back on luxury expenses but also have a good time here.

Tabelog 食べログ

Also in the same realm of eating out, apps such as Tabelog or Hot Pepper are good sites to look for the cheapest restaurants. You can adjust your preference, location and cost range so that the search is catered to what you want. Usually, you can book, see reviews of the place and look at the menu before going to the shop. Also, these apps usually have a coupon section where you can get discounts by showing the digital coupon to the restaurant staff. I usually do this if the outing is planned, just so that the price range isn’t too high.


I’m a huge fan of thrifting so I find places like OffHouse and Second Street quite suitable for my needs. These are chain thrift stores where you can buy and sell clothes and other items (furniture, shoes, bags, etc.). What I like about it is that you can find some unique things, that you usually don’t find in big places like GU or Uniqlo. Plus, you can earn some extra money by selling unused items. There’s also HardOff for electronics and BookOff for buying books.


Teiki 定期 (Monthly Train pass) 

If you’re using transportation every day, it can accumulate to quite a big sum. For example, I ride the subway 6 days a week, with one trip being 250 yen (500 yen per day). With this, the monthly cost would be about 12000 yen. But I decided to buy a 定期券Teiki-ken, which is a commuter pass. I bought a three-month pass for 15000 yen, meaning I save 7000 yen minimum on transportation costs. Usually, they provide this commuter pass for school and work commuters, and you have to go to the commuter ticket counter with appropriate documentation.
Besides this, there are many passes that can ensure travel aren’t emptying your wallet. For example, the ドニチカ 切符Donichika pass in Sapporo allows an all-you-can-travel system for one weekend. This is currently 520 yen, meaning that as long as you ride the subway twice you can get your money’s worth.

Saving on SIM cards 

Finding an appropriate phone plan can be quite a hassle. Usually, with phone companies like Docomo or Softbank, the phone is locked to that phone company. So you can’t use it with other companies or in different countries (with roaming being the exception). I found the best option to be to buy a SIM Free phone and use the YMobile SIM card. My phone plan is currently 3000 yen a month, and I rarely ever run out of data usage. The only downside would be that the phones YMobile offers are not the most in-style devices.


Gyomu Super 業務スーパー

Buying in bulk is a no-brainer when trying to save money. However, Costco’s can be quite far and inaccessible to many in Japan. An alternative to this is Gyomu Super. Gyomu means ‘business’, meaning that the items sold at Gyomu Super are usually for places like restaurants and offices (but anyone can shop here). Things such as soy sauce in big bottles, or big packets of pasta or even vegetables can be bought here.

Hopefully, this helps with saving on living expenses while in Japan. I believe a lot of the above-mentioned options are quite specific to Japan. It took quite some time to figure out ways to live on a low budget, so I hope this helps with your journey 😊


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